| April 4
April 4 The U.S. government on Thursday
recommended the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the
Klamath River in Oregon and California to aid native salmon runs
and help resolve a decades-long struggle over allocation of
scarce water resources.
The U.S. Interior Department proposal, which comes as the
largest dam removal project in U.S. history is nearing
completion in Washington state, concerns a system of dams that
straddle the Oregon-California border.
The proposal to dismantle the dams owned by utility
PacifiCorp coincides with a broader push by environmentalists
and others to restore salmon fisheries in the Klamath Basin and
elsewhere in the nation.
The dams recommended for removal, two in Oregon and two in
California, block upstream spawning migrations of salmon and
place juvenile fish at risk by slowing their return to the
Removing them would open 420 miles of salmon habitat for the
first time in 100 years, eliminate turbines that grind up fish
and restore the Klamath River channel, according to the
The recommendation stems from a 2010 agreement among
competing Klamath Basin water users that called for the
government to determine if removing the dams would restore
failing salmon runs and lessen conflicts in regional water
The Klamath River contains several fish, including Coho
salmon, on the federal threatened and endangered species list,
and repeated droughts in the basin have periodically forced U.S.
water managers to allocate flows to protected fish rather than
to farmers for irrigation.
The recommendation, which came in an environmental impact
statement released by Interior, follows years of legal wrangling
and periods of low flows that saw massive die-offs of salmon,
shut-offs of irrigation districts and tightening of rules for
hydroelectric projects that caused them to operate at losses.
The near collapse of Klamath Basin Chinook salmon led the
U.S. government in 2006 to severely restrict commercial and
sport fishing in the Klamath River and along 700 miles of the
California and Oregon coast.
In a statement, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Thursday
described the dismantling of the dams as "a comprehensive
solution addressing all of the needs of the Klamath Basin,
including fisheries, agriculture, refuges and power."
Under the proposal, which must still gain congressional
approval, the dams would be removed over 20 months at a cost of
$450 million to be garnered from rate payers and bonds.
If the dams were to remain in place, PacifiCorp would incur
more than $460 million in costs for relicensing, operation and
maintenance of aging structures that have proved unprofitable,
the analysis shows.
Glen Spain, regional director of the Pacific Coast
Federation of Fishermen's Associations, said the analysis
"confirms that dam removal is both feasible and cheaper than any
other option." But Klamath County Commissioners have withdrawn
their support for taking down the dams.
The largest dam-removal project in U.S. history is expected
to be completed this summer with the dismantling of the second
of two towering dams on the Elwha River in Olympic National Park
The project is designed to allow salmon to return to their
historic spawning areas and raise salmon counts from 3,000 to
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Todd Eastham)